Good sports

Team Francis

A close-knit band: Bryce Altus, Ivan Gates and Samantha Gates are Team Francis.

A close-knit band: Bryce Altus, Ivan Gates and Samantha Gates are Team Francis.

Photo/Kent Irwin

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A good band needs shared goals, common passions, and a sense of camaraderie. A good band needs teamwork. Sometimes, this means wearing uniforms. The members of Team Francis, a new indie-pop outfit based in Carson City, aren’t afraid to match outfits, occasionally sporting red tracksuits at gigs and photo shoots. There’s no specific sport present in the band’s theme, though they admit they’ve considered doubling Team Francis as a bowling or synchronized swimming team.

The sports-team theme is primarily an aesthetic choice, but has also helped to strengthen the bond between the members, who regrouped after a previous incarnation—Ladies and Gentlemen—disbanded. Their previous singer parted with a majority of the band’s songbook, allowing singer/keyboardist Samantha Gates to explore her own songwriting as leader of Team Francis. Since paring down, she believes the group has become a stronger, more tight-knit unit.

“The team is the three of us,” said Samantha. “You can’t be on Team Francis, but you can be on team Team Francis.”

Bonds between the three musicians were forged long before the formation of the band. Samantha and bassist/guitarist Ivan Gates are siblings, whose first performance as a band was at a first-grade talent show covering Blondie. Drummer Bryce Altus has a history of performing with Ivan, including an ill-advised show at the Knitting Factory as a part of a classic-rock cover band called The Cutters.

“I broke a bass string 10 seconds into the first song,” recalled Ivan.

To add to the embarrassment, the onstage musicians included Ivan and Samantha’s parents, Carolyn and Vince Gates. Luckily, the elder Gates were well accustomed to stage mishaps. Carolyn has played in many notable bands in Northern Nevada, including drumming for local indie favorite Blunderbusst. Vince has been a member of the music scene for many years, and currently owns Play Your Own Music in Carson City.

“The best part about growing up in a musical family was that we never lacked the gear we needed,” said Samantha. “If we needed drums, amps, whatever—it was all there.”

Samantha and Ivan’s upbringing left them with the ability to play many instruments in many different styles. In addition to singing and playing guitar, Samantha is adept at violin and saxophone. Ivan is skilled in both guitar and bass, playing an upright bass in an acoustic country band with Samantha.

The multi-instrumental talent isn’t just limited to the Gates siblings, however. Altus also displays his talent for hip-hop verse in Team Francis, rapping into a mic while keeping the beat on his drum set during one of the band’s songs.

Team Francis cite electronic artists, new wave and contemporary experimental bands as influences. However, their live shows lend themselves to more of a rock direction.

“We can’t play slow, beautiful songs,” said Samantha. “I’ve tried to write them, but any time I bring them to the band they take it to this whole other place.”

Team Francis’ energy level plays a compelling dynamic with Samantha’s lyrics, which are often intimate and emotional confessions, accented by moments of metaphor and symbolism.

“Our songs are very danceable, so that’s part of the reason it doesn’t feel like I’m reading my diary onstage,” said Samantha.

Team Francis enjoy being close to their audiences, literally and figuratively. The trio agrees that their music lends itself best to small rooms, preferably basements and living rooms.

“It’s great to be on the same level as the audience,” said Ivan.